New York Opens First Dispensary in Manhattan

Stephen Andrews
26 Dec 2022

A lot has been written about the pending launch of New York's legal cannabis market over the last couple of months. The official launch has been entangled in delay. Nevertheless, Gov. Kathy Hochul has finally hailed the official start of legal retail of adult-use cannabis in the Empire State. In an announcement last week, she confirmed the first recreational dispensary would open in Manhattans East Village just before New Year.

Housing Works, the nation's largest minority-controlled HIV/AIDS service organization and community, will run the first legal cannabis dispensary in New York, Governor Kathy Hochul announced. 

Housing Works will serve its first customers on Dec. 29 at its East Village Manhattan location. 

"We set a course just nine months ago to start New York's adult-use cannabis market off on the right foot by prioritizing equity, and now, we're fulfilling that goal," Ms. Hochul said in a statement"The industry will continue to grow from here, creating inclusive opportunity in every corner of New York State with revenues directed to our schools and revitalizing communities."

With the launch of the first legal cannabis shop, the governor fulfills a pledge to launch recreational retail of cannabis in New York by the end of 2022. 

The initial goal was that dozens of shops operate at full capacity by the end of the year. However, with the tilted timeline, other locations are anticipated to enter business throughout January and February. 

New York legalized cannabis for adult use back in 2021, when the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) was signed into law by former governor Andrew Cuomo. 

The launch of legal sales under Gov. Hochul is a significant milestone for her Seeding Opportunity Initiative, a unique program designed to guarantee equal marketplace opportunities for those disproportionately affected by previous drug laws. 

Under Hochul's plan, 280 family farmers have been licensed to cultivate crops to provide safe, lab-tested cannabis goods for New York's adult-use legal market. 

The Seeding Opportunity Initiative also saved the first 150 Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licenses for those with past cannabis-related convictions as well as nonprofit groups that offer their services to families affected by the War on Drugs. The initial batch of the CAURD licenses was issued last month and went into the hands of 28 individuals and eight nonprofits. 

For a CAURD license, nonprofits must have at least one justice-involved board member, and they must also provide vocational opportunities for individuals with cannabis-related convicts. 

Housing Works, one of the eight nonprofit recipients of a CAURD license, has served justice-involved New Yorkers since the early 1990s. The organization has helped thousands of homeless or low-income individuals living with HIV/AIDS or at risk of infection, offering various types of help such as housing, job training, and legal support, among others. One of the group's initiatives, the Justice Initiative, is actively involved with formerly incarcerated individuals, including those with marijuana offenses.

The Housing Works Cannabis Co. dispensary shop is situated at 750 Broadway in the Astor Place neighborhood of the East Village. The edifice where the storefront opens, also known as 1 Astor place, was built in 1883. At 4,400 square feet of space, the new enterprise will welcome its first customers on Thursday, Dec. 29. Housing Works the organization will receive all proceeds from dispensary sales. 

"I'm excited that a non-profit like Housing Works, with its support for formerly incarcerated individuals, will lead the way with sales," said Tremaine Wright, chairwoman of the New York Cannabis Control Board. 

"The start of sales through the Seeding Opportunity Initiative is just the beginning of the robust ecosystem we're building – the equitable and inclusive market will grow from here with supports throughout to ensure licensees are able to overcome barriers and build this new industry," she said.

Stephen Andrews